SITTING WITH GIANTS | LOGIC AND VERNON REID

A few weeks ago, I sat down with DJ Logic and Vernon Reid at the Montreux Jazz Festival to shoot the breeze. A formal interview seemed too much of a hassle since these guys were so incredibly, so extremely laid back. Chatting with them was both a calming and thought-provoking experience. The show they brought later that evening was top notch. At one point, their playing seemed effortless - as if each member of the Project was encapsulated in their own personal bubble of sound where they could run wild and never risk breaking the groove. If you have not had a chance to see this band live, don't hesitate the next time they are in your area. If we are lucky, Vernon should play more shows with Logic in support of the release of their upcoming ropeadope collaboration, The Yohimbe Brothers.

Interview by Craig Judkins (EBong in Europe)...

CJ: So you're doing this Europe tour. What else are you focusing on, apart from that?

Logic: Vernon and I did a project together where we incorporated a lot of different elements, like from all over; electronic - you name it. We chose the name the Yohimbe Brothers. You know, there are so many "brothers" in music.

Vernon: The Statler Brothers, The Brothers Johnson, The Everly Brothers (Laughs)

Logic: But we wanted to express what we were about in our name, and through the music, too. So, Yohimbe Brothers just sounded cool. And it pertains to the music. (Editor's Note: Yohimbe is a root found in parts of Africa that has been called the natural viagra. Used for centuries, it is said to enhance male sexual performance)

CJ: That's your project that you are going to be focusing on?

Logic: No, it's already done.

Vernon: The record is coming out in September. (9/15/02)

CJ: I know that you guys have some kind of a history together. What made it so that you guys said, 'now is the time?'

Logic: With our hectic schedules, it's more difficult. But we've been working on this project off and on for a long time. When I had time I would go over to Vernon's house.

CJ: (to Vernon): Where do you live?

Vernon: Staten Island.

Logic: We've worked together so many times; it's brought us closer together. It's been fun doing everything - even coming up with the name.

CJ: Do you think that you have a better niche in the European market than other bands that play your circuit in the states?

Logic: Yeah, I would love to play Europe more often.

CJ: How do your shows play over here as compared to the states?

Logic: Very well. Very well. I was surprised coming over here, and the record had done very well over here. The first date that we played over here was at an outdoor festival and we attracted a bunch of people there that had never even heard the record. And that was surprising. People would just stop in their tracks and look up at the stage and ask themselves, "What's going on here?" You know, that's something that I want to do, you know - certain little things; little sounds that grab people and they pay attention. But still, being a DJ that is conducting a band, you know... it's great. Being able to get together with the band and meld together...

CJ: On this European tour, all the shows you guys played -- you've been to Turkey -- what is the story? What is the story that is on the front of your mind that you will tell people about that went down? Is there any weird shit that happened? Especially in that place, you know. Istanbul, what with the way the world is right now.

Vernon: I don't know. We were in Istanbul and one of the main ministers, like the finance minister, resigned and then he said, "Oh, no. I'll come back." It was a weird thing. But like the vibe on the street was kind of like, ummm... Istanbul is a very cosmopolitan city, and the most liberal in the Islamic world... It's definitely more...

CJ: (Interrupting) Women have more rights, etc..

Vernon: Oh, women, yeah. There are very few burkas. I mean there are hotties out there.

Logic: Yeah, there are some gorgeous women out there. I mean, the guys in the band.... that was probably everyone's favorite place.

CJ: Exotic ladies?

Logic: Oh yeah. Exotic ladies.

Vernon: No one got lucky with that. (Laughs)

Logic: (Laughs) But with the vibe and everything, everyone was cool.

CJ: They were down with the music?

Logic: Totally down with the music. They were bowin'. Bowing to Casey, bowin' to myself, bowin' to Vernon and the music.

CJ: Were the surroundings influencing the music that you were bringing that night?

Logic: You know what, yeah. I was listening to a lot of Turkish music and went to some clubs. Middle Eastern music, the rhythms and stuff like that. I wanted to incorporate some of that into, you know, the set. So in the two days that we were there, I wanted to incorporate that whole vibe. The percussion vibe and the rhythms. And then Vernon just soloed over the top of that, and people loved it.

CJ: Did you find any vinyl shops while you were there?

Logic: (big smile) Yeah, I was very happy. That's what I was waiting for. I just wanted to get to Turkey and go crazy. I found my way into this little, small bazaar and there were all these small record shops. So I picked up some Turkish sounds: soundtracks, some 45's, Turkish funk -- you gotta check that out. I'm gonna be puttin' that on the next Logic mix tape. I attracted a lot of attention while I was in those places. People were thinkin', "Oh, what's he lookin' for?" But I got my fingers dirty and it was great.

CJ: So changing gears here... Billy Martin put out a break beat record on your recommendation...

Vernon: He put out a break beat record?

CJ: Yeah, as kind of an afterthought he asked DJ's, musicians, rappers, those kinds of people to use the beats to make...

Logic: (dropping in) Remixes. Yeah, he didn't know what to expect. He just gave the record out to a lot of his friends and musicians. And I thought it was great. Just the whole I idea when I was touring with them. You know Billy, he loves hip-hop, drum and bass, all kinds of music - and you'll also hear it in the MMW set. So I was touring with them and I said, 'Why not do a break beat record?' Just something that is your own and all your thing with your beats. You know, turn it around.

CJ: You know, that guy impresses me cause he is a drummer and not like a guitarist or somebody that fills the traditional roll of an innovator or leading spirit in this like rock and roll thing or life.

Logic: Right.

CJ: He's bringing it hard.

Logic: Well he's just creative. I mean everything. His art work.

Vernon: I love his artwork. All the little images and stuff.

Logic: All that MMW shit is all Billy. The covers and the shirts and stuff. He has a lot of ideas and he's very serious.

CJ: Have you heard anything off Drop the Needle?

Logic: I think it's at home waiting for me. I have lots of stuff to go through. (Laughs)

CJ: So you played Bonnaroo. This massive freak-out festival. When we were talking to Willie Nelson not long ago, he seemed impressed with it himself and was pretty surprised that there were only 14 arrests. (Laughs)

Logic: Well, yeah. I think that festival was great, you know. Everyone involved. The guys from Superfly they did a wonderful job putting that thing together and getting all the acts that they got from Widespread to Trey to Bob Weir, Phil Lesh...

CJ: It was kind of a festival on that back of a lot of people's minds for a long time. Like, why not?

Logic: Yeah. And it was also eclectic cause you had people there like Jurassic 5 bringin' the hip-hop vibe and they turned it out. There was no advertising. It was word of mouth and the Internet. It wasn't commercialized.

CJ: Yeah, it wasn't even on CNN until like a week or two later.

Logic: I got out in the audience and walked around and checked out the vendors and all that stuff. The place was packed with vendors and food and people entertaining themselves and arcades and stuff like that. The campgrounds were all...

CJ: (interrupting) Did you ever make it to any of those big Phish shows that Bonarroo was kind of modeled after? Like those shows in Maine and New York?

Logic: Yeah, and they did one in Florida, right?

CJ: Yeah, art is everywhere and the little towns and all that. The Clifford Ball was the first one like that what was so cool was no one really knew what they were dealing with. There were 60,000 people there and they just showed up. The advertising was totally focused within' the scene and corporate America wasn't really there. No media, either. So like now, with Bonarroo, they've got Gateway computers in there, but I guess they are providing a service...

Logic: Yeah. The whole thing was great and I am looking forward to the next one definitely.

CJ: I think maybe some people were a little scared cause there was so much hype in the scene before the show even started. I mean they sold their tickets before they could even raise the prices. What made it work was that everyone was there for the music and not the bullshit.

Logic: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. No bullshit.

Vernon: (interrupting) You just gotta be careful, you know. The success. It's so funny. I talked to George Clinton; I interviewed him one time for Vibe magazine. And he said something to me that was really deep. We were talking about Woodstock. And he said Woodstock was not the beginning. So many people base their thinking on Woodstock being the beginning. But what George said was Woodstock was the end.

CJ: I understand what you mean.

Vernon: The things that I have noticed with like Berkfest and the things that I have seen... You know the vibe, it's actually a beautiful vibe, but there is so much money being made. There is so much money in the pipeline. And there are people that are out there that really are kind of not with it. You know what I mean? The Ticketmasters of the world. I think the whole scene has just got to be really careful. And just be very aware to keep the vibe and the spirit of the thing upfront.
[Editor's Note: If you didn't really read that paragraph, read it again and pass it on.]

CJ: Right

Vernon: Put the vibe of the shit up front. Cause what's gonna happen is the people that wanna front, the people that are not down with the vibe, the people that want to exploit, you know what I mean? A lot people think that the jam thing is an easy way out for them. And in actuality, it's a whole aesthetic; it's a whole culture, that's kind of developed organically... you know what I mean? And it's incorporated... it's interesting cause people think, they say, "What is it? Folk rock?" And it's actually bigger than that. You know I went into a Dead shop one time and I heard Infrared Roses and I said, "What is this some Miles Davis shit?" And they said, "No, it's the Grateful Dead."

CJ: Well, I am sure he had something to do with that sound. Miles.

Vernon: Well, that's just it. See, Garcia was, as Van Morrison would say, "into the mystic." He was really into that shit. He played with Ornette Coleman. He really got into it. Everything. For good and ill. As a musician, I have, you know, respect. But I am just saying you know, you look at it and this blew up and that blew up. Like the Love Parade. I am amazed that something like the Love Parade has been able to exist and not destroy itself. Cause you know, Lollapalooza. (shaking his head) Lollapalooza was the end of alternative rock on the level. After 6 festivals, you know, people started repeating and things. All I am saying, though, is that it is just dope. I am so impressed with what is happening in the whole jamband world. The intersection of jazz, and hip-hop, electronic, it's really fat. But as the shit gets bigger and bigger, you gotta watch out.

CJ: Well you know that whole "jamband" thing. (motioning to Logic) I mean, you're lumped in with it. It's such a broad category.

Logic: (Laughs) Yeah.

CJ: Everybody is looking for a category; everybody is looking for a definition to fit their language. A category for the records in the store.

Logic: Right.

Vernon: What is it about human beings that they can't just let shit be?

Logic: Well I get a lot of interviews where people ask me how I describe my music. You know, yeah, why can't people just let it be and enjoy the music for what it is. And that's it.

CJ: Promoters probably sell that shit a lot more than they need to. I mean, you've played with Del McCoury. Talk about a smack upside the head. Those are two worlds that, uhh... came together and no one could have expected it.

Logic: Yeah! That's right.

CJ: And the fans that buy tickets make that kind of thing happen. Unconventional music that you would never see in the "real" world cause they are the ones that buy the tickets, right?

Logic: Yeah, totally.

CJ: You were the hardest working guy at Bonarroo from what I read. You must have been running around everywhere playing.

Logic: Yeah, I was running around, and you know, it's also the musicians that were playing there. They really appreciated me and wanted me to play with them. You know, it's vice versa. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the festival.

CJ: Did you get the vibe that people were mapping out their jams or what they were going to try and do on stage just because of the size of it all? Or did you get the feeling that is was more like a family thing and those bands there were just playing what they wanted, in the moment, with their people?

Logic: That's it. This is it. There was nothing mapped out. People came together and played. Especially the all-star jam with Bela, and Michael Kang from String Cheese, and Robert Randolph. That was like a special moment. Everyone just came together. They were there like everyone else, watching the music and they weren't doing anything. When the all-star thing happened, everyone just came together and said, "Hey, let's jam. Let's have a good time." You know, we had time and we wanted to have fun. And that definitely wasn't mapped out. Everything was improv right there on the stage. The people in the audience enjoyed it, too.

CJ: Jumping back into my prepared questions, have you had a gig on this Europe tour that was a stand out gig? Like one that you'll look back on?

Logic: Well, tonight is very special. It's the last night of our tour and Montreux is a special place because of the famous jazz musicians that have performed here. To be asked to play here is an honor. But if I were to think of something like really spectacular, I would have to say Vienne (France).

Vernon: That amphitheatre.

Logic: Yeah, that amphitheatre. How old was that? Like 2... 2000 years old?

Vernon: 2000 years old, yeah.

Logic: And the sound in there was just amazing. Just the seating area where the people sit was like, wow. Extraordinary. There aren't enough words to explain how cool it was.

CJ: You know, for me, over here, it seems like some of the scenes that you stumble on to, like in Paris or something, with all the trade in the streets and the old world style, the closest thing I could compare it to is like a Dead show. Sometimes I get confused as to what I may have experienced and what I am experiencing. (Laughs)

Vernon: Well yeah. It's cool here cause there is so much stuff going on with commerce along the lake. It's all out there. Interesting and sometimes cheesy, but for the most part cool.

Logic: Yeah, and the tastes. That food smells good.

CJ: Yeah, there is an interesting conglomeration of smells over by the main stage. It kind of smells like someone's nasty feet and good cooking.

Logic: (Laughs) Did you see the size of the woks they have goin' over there? I was like, what can they be cookin' in that?

CJ: We were talking about how music and creativity have to be kept real and thought of as most important. How important is it for you, for your art, how much do you care if your name just fell off the charts or whatever, say, tomorrow? Does it matter as long as you have people to play with and make music? Do you give a shit?

Vernon: The fact is, it's like... the best metaphor is a sports team. The team is doing really well. They are having a championship season. Then the next year they are not even in the playoffs. But the whole reality is that you get back on the court or you stop. One has to be really careful not to get attached to anything other than being a musician. The celebrity - all that. There's nothing to gain. There is nothing there. The problem is... what's so sad is, people who are not there, or famous or known... they're desperate to be known. Which is, you know, you have to ask yourself, what is that about. If you're looking for recognition, why? Why do you feel some sort of negation within yourself? Why do you need recognition? It's one of those things that you just figure out over time. It's like you know it's good when your medium picks you. Like a guitar with a DJ. You hear it and you know that's what gets you off so you go with it. Your life gravitates toward it and it has nothing to do with whether you're good or not. It's fascinating. You know, people stumbling through the dark with their hands stretched out, blind folded, those are the people that often times change the world because they fall over something and then they say, "Oh, what's that." The people that set out to create the biggest and the best seldom do anything. And it's wrong, you know, to think like you have to be appreciated in your lifetime. Some of the most expressive paintings in the world were made by men that died penniless. There is so much stuff that happens in this world that is amazing. All this stuff. Look at these mountains. They exist. They're beautiful. They don't need recognition to be beautiful.

Craig Judkins
ebong.org
JamBase | World Wide
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http://www.ropeadope.com/yohimbe.html

[Published on: 8/7/02]

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